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Yellow Spotted Night Lizards and We Aren’t Talking Disney!

Yellow Spotted Night Lizards

Lepidophyma flavimaculatum

I came across this species personally window shopping at a local pet store and much to the chagrin of my loving wife I purchased the pair that the store had after attempting to research their care through my personal herpetological book collection and online. Surprisingly, little is known or published on their captive care. Therefore it became a personal challenge to “figure” out the species. I came to discover that the store selling them had them labeled incorrectly as South American Alligator Lizards and after obtaining their scientific name from the importer themselves I was on my way.

Yellow Spotted Night Lizards do act in some ways like the native Alligator Lizard Elgaria sp. of my area as they are ready to bite should you attempt to handle them but the similarities end there. Their dorsum is covered in spikes or sharp spines or tubercles much like the familiar Bearded Dragon Pogona sp. while their head is smoothly scaled. They are typically a dark brown color with the namesake yellow spots on the sides. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern per se but the spots are usually in pairs usually one beneath the other running from the neck to just after the rear leg.

In captivity, they can be kept in a twenty gallon long terrarium with a secure fitting lid as they will readily climb any branches and dcor that is added. The substrate that I have found to work best is the coconut coir which is usually sold as an expandable brick of soil. You will want to provide a basking spot in the enclosure of 80 degrees while keeping the rest of the enclosure at 75 degrees. Plants whether plastic or real are very much enjoyed as cover for this peculiar lizard as they do enjoy their privacy. To a twenty gallon terrarium I would add about ten or plants of various types which are reptile safe. I also add two separate hide logs to the terrarium and this allows the lizard to choose whether it wants to be on the warm or cool side of the enclosure. A sandblasted piece of grapevine is used as a perch so that it may survey its environment. Mist the enclosure on a daily basis if you live in a dry area to maintain a humidity of 75%.

Yellow Spotted Night lizards are parthenogenetic which means there are no males of the species. Instead there are females in the group which enact a typically male behavior which causes the other females to give birth. This process has most recently been seen in the seemingly random birth of Komodo Dragons which have never encountered a male. I myself experienced the joyous occasion of having one of the lizards I was keeping giving birth while in my care. What actually triggered the breeding response is something I am still investigating and hoping to recreate again sometime in the future. Apparently there doesn’t need to be any hibernation for this species which is usually a breeding trigger in reptile species.

In captivity the Yellow Spotted Night Lizard will eagerly take appropriate sized crickets and mealworms as foods. I make sure to dust every other feeding with a calcium and vitamin supplement. I am sure they would also take wax worms but these are a very fatty food and I would only recommend these as a rare treat and not as a regular meal. An interesting note is that I have yet to actually see them drink standing water from a bowl but this may be a behavior which I missed as they are primarily nocturnal species. However, fresh water should always be provided in a bowl large enough for them soak their entire body in. Whenever I would spray the enclosure the lizards would come out from their hides to lick water from the plants and glass walls itself.

If you see this species I would highly recommend purchasing at least one if not a pair for the intermediate keeper as the behaviors and look of the lizards themselves are intriguing to say the least and they give you a reason to construct a naturalistic vivarium if this is something that you wish to venture into.